Organic Adobo or Adobar (Spanish: marinade, sauce, or seasoning) is the immersion of raw food in a stock (or sauce) composed variously of paprika, oregano, salt, garlic, and vinegar to preserve and enhance its flavor. The Portuguese variant is known as Carne de vinha d’alhos.
The practice is native to Iberia, namely Spanish cuisine and Portuguese cuisine. It was widely adopted in Latin America and other Spanish and Portuguese colonies, including the Azores and Madeira.
In the Philippines, the name adobo was given by the Spanish colonists to an indigenous cooking method that also uses vinegar, which, although superficially similar, had developed independently of Spanish influence.
In antiquity, meat and fish were difficult to preserve. Cold temperature facilitated the preservation of food, but the weather often did not provide low temperatures ideal for preservation, so it was necessary to apply other techniques, such as adobo. Animals were usually slaughtered in the coldest months of winter, but surplus meat had to be preserved in the warmer months. This was facilitated through the use of adobos (marinades) along with paprika (a substance with antibacterial properties). Paprika gives a reddish color to adobos and at the same time the capsaicins in paprika permit fats to dissolve to the point of allowing tissue penetration, going deeper than the surface.
Adobo was employed initially as a method of food preservation, but in time—with the advent of refrigeration methods—it came to be used primarily as a method of flavoring foods before cooking. Traditional preparations were created with the intent of flavoring, such as cazón en adobo (dogfish in adobo, made from school shark and originating from Cadiz, a city in the Cádiz province of Spain); berenjenas de Almagro (Almagro aubergine, a pickled aubergine characteristic of “Manchega” cuisine from the Castile-La Mancha region of Spain, specifically from Almagro, a city in the Ciudad Real province of Spain); and lomo en adobo (tenderloin of beef or pork in adobo).
The noun form of adobo describes a marinade or seasoning mix. Recipes vary widely by region: Puerto Rican adobo, a rub used principally on meats, differs greatly from the Mexican variety. Meat marinated or seasoned with an adobo is referred to as adobado or adobada.
Adobo relates to marinated dishes such as chipotles en adobo in which chipotles (smoked ripe jalapeño peppers) are stewed in a sauce with tomatoes, garlic, vinegar, salt, and spices. The spices vary, but generally include several types of peppers (in addition to the chipotle and most likely those on hand), ground cumin and dried oregano. Some recipes include orange juice and lemon or lime juices. They often include a pinch of brown sugar just to offset any bitter taste.
Puerto Rican-style adobo is a seasoned salt that is generously sprinkled or rubbed on meats and seafood prior to grilling, sautéing, or frying. Supermarkets sell prepared blends. There are two types of adobo on the island. The wet rub, adobo mojado, consists of crushed garlic, olive oil, salt, black pepper, dry or fresh orégano brujo, citrus juice or vinegar or a mix of both citrus and vinegar. More widely used on the island is a dry mix, adobo seco. It is easier to prepare and has a long shelf life. Adobo seco consists of garlic powder, onion powder, salt, black pepper, dry orégano brujo, and sometimes dried citrus zest.
Adobo is a typical dish of Peruvian cuisine, specifically in the area of Arequipa. This is a dish of pork marinated in spices and vegetables, which are cooked in a clay pot until it becomes tender. Served with bread for dipping in the sauce.
In Filipino cuisine, adobo refers to a common cooking process indigenous to the Philippines. When the Spanish first explored the Philippines in the late 16th century, they encountered a cooking process that involved stewing with vinegar. The Spanish referred to it as adobo due to its superficial similarity to the Spanish adobo. The Filipino adobo is an entirely separate method of preparing food and is distinct from the Spanish marinade.